Ex-envoy testifies he was ‘surprised’ by additional attempts to get Ukraine President to announce Biden probe

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By Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) –Former US special envoy Kurt Volker told lawmakers Tuesday that he was “surprised” to learn there had been additional conversations about the Ukrainian President announcing an investigation into the President Donald Trump’s political rivals.

Volker’s testimony before impeachment investigators is a key component of the House’s impeachment inquiry, as he was one of the so-called “three amgios” who met with the President on Ukraine policy and worked directly with the Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to help Ukraine draft a statement on investigations.

Republicans have seized on his previous closed-door testimony in which he said he saw no evidence of a quid pro quo conditioning an investigation on US security aid and a one-on-one meeting.

But Volker, the first witness in the House’s impeachment inquiry, said that since his initial testimony “a great deal of additional information and perspectives have come to light.”

LIVE UPDATES: Four key impeachment witnesses testify

“I have learned many things that I did not know at the time of the events in question,” he said.

Volker was involved in an effort with Giuliani, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in crafting a statement for Zelensky to deliver that would satisfy Trump’s concerns.

After Giuliani proposed including specific references to “Burisma and 2016,” Volker said, the Ukrainians said they did not want to go forward with the statement. Volker said he thought the matter was then dropped — which was not the case.

“These were the last conversations I had about this statement, which were on or about August 17-18. … At this time, I thought the idea of issuing this statement had been definitely scrapped,” Volker said. “In September, I was surprised to learn that there had been further discussions with the Ukrainians about President Zelensky possibly making a statement in an interview with US media similar to what we had discussed in August.”

One of the conversations Volker was unaware of was when Sondland spoke to an aide to Zelensky on September 1 following a meeting between Vice President Mike Pence and Zelensky. In the side conversation, Sondland said that he told the Ukrainian aide that the US security aide would be released if Zelensky announced the investigation.

That conversation was only revealed after Sondland amended his testimony, saying he recalled it after his deposition.

Volker testified Tuesday afternoon alongside National Security Council aide Tim Morrison, who was another official on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky.

“As I stated during my deposition, I feared at the time of the call on July 25 how its disclosure would play in Washington’s political climate. My fears have been realized,” Morrison said in his opening statement.

Morrison is another witness who, like Volker, Republicans requested for public testimony Unlike the witnesses who testified Tuesday morning, Morrison said in his closed-door deposition that he did not have concerns about the content of the call, only the potential that it could have leaked out.


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